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LA Theater Review

In Dependence

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Behind the glamorous public image of the elite exists an often-unseen layer of staff known as personal assistants. According to playwright-solo performer Jamie M. Fox, this work force executes mundane chores while solving the all-too-frequent crises that arise depending upon the mental stability and whims of their employers. As Fox begins her foible-skewering production, she manically instructs an unseen individual on the dos and don'ts of her current charge, Cheryl, a blithely vacuous soap star. "Don't microwave the coffee. Report the stalker's mail to the police." It's not until a flashback sequence in which Fox's autobiographical personage, Alyssa Golden, receives word her brother has been arrested for cocaine distribution that we realize she's training her own replacement. As organized as Alyssa is, one would think this familial emergency would prove just another minor difficulty. And yet Fox's crisply honed collection of characterizations proves that facing one's own problems is often much harder than solving someone else's.

Alyssa's parents are a trip. Her father is the essence of the harried, war-weary patriarch. Life isn't always fair, so he makes the best of the hand he's dealt. Meanwhile, her candy-popping, sour cream-dipping--with her fingers no less--mother seems to have mastered the ability to continue speaking while simultaneously inhaling. These are traditional Jewish parents whose lives have been upended by the felonious behavior of their male progeny.

Director Jeff Weatherford focuses Fox's work with laserlike sharpness. Characters never bleed one into the next. Fox crafts her monologues so as to avoid the pitfall of two characters carrying on a conversation thereby forcing the single actor to amateurishly shift back and forth. Relaying her true-life story through fictitious characters wisely preserves the humor in what otherwise might become just maudlin self-analysis.

Set and technical designing by Joe Cashman and Joe Fusco, respectively, expertly uses the production elements already in place for the Coast Playhouse's long-running production of Bark. The only quibble was the unnecessarily loud volume set by an unseen, uncredited musical combo playing original transition pieces by composer Dan White.

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